Litman on Lawful Personal Use

Jessica Litman, Professor at the University of Michigan Law School and author of Digital Copyright: Protecting Intellectual Property on the Internet, has written a paper that examines copyright from the point of user rights.

Here's an excerpt from the e-print:

This Article seeks to refocus the discussion of users’ and consumers’ rights under copyright, by placing people who make personal use of copyright works at the center of the copyright system. . . .

Limiting myself to personal use, moreover, allows me to evade, for now, many of the interesting questions that arise when readers, listeners, users, and experiencers morph into publishers and distributors. Finally, personal use is a realm where even the most rapacious copyright owners have always agreed that some uses are lawful even though they are neither exempted or privileged in the copyright statute nor recognized as legal by any judicial decision.

In Part II of this Article, I urge that reading, listening, viewing, watching, playing, and using copyrighted works is at the core of the copyright system. . . . In Part III, I revisit copyright cases that have attracted criticism for their stingy construction of copyright owners’ property rights, and suggest that the courts’ narrow reading of copyright rights was motivated, at least in part, by their solicitude for the interests of readers and listeners. . . . In Part IV, I articulate a definition of personal use. Armed with that definition, in Part V, I look at a range of personal uses that are uncontroversially noninfringing under current law. . . . I proceed in Parts VI and VII to offer an alternative analysis of the scope of copyright owners’ rights and the lawfulness of personal uses that might invade them. Finally, in Part VIII, I return to the conventional paradigm of copyright statutory interpretation, under which all unlicensed uses are infringing unless excused.

Source: Litman, Jessica. "Lawful Personal Use." (2007).